Alcohol abuse is a common problem among teenagers and adults alike in the United States. The most common substance of abuse despite its legal status, alcohol destroys careers, lives, families, finances, health and more. Alcohol abuse is not only the precursor to alcohol addiction, but it is often impossible to walk away from without alcohol detox and addiction treatment at a comprehensive alcohol rehab.
What Is Alcohol Abuse?
If you use alcohol to the point that it harms you physically or emotionally or begins to cause problems in your life, then alcohol abuse is an issue for you. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV defines alcohol abuse as a problem that persists despite the obvious problems that come with chronic drinking.
These problems can include issues at work, fights at home, legal charges and financial struggles – when they occur as a result of alcohol abuse. Those who abuse alcohol don’t feel well physically or mentally, but they continue to drink, feeling like they have no other way to relax, escape stressful situations or enjoy their free time.
Who Is Abusing Alcohol?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that more than 23 percent of Americans over the age of 12 had reported binge drinking in the month prior (defined as more than five drinks consumed within two hours) and almost seven percent reported heavy drinking (defined as more than five drinks in a two-hour period on more than five occasions.
Despite being under the legal drinking age of 21, the same NIDA study showed that American teens reported a significant amount of alcohol abuse as well. Among those surveyed between the ages of 12 and 17, almost nine percent reported binge drinking while more than two percent drank heavily. Additionally, the 2010 Monitoring the Future Study showed that five percent of 8th graders, almost 15 percent of 10th graders, and about 27 percent of 12th graders reported being drunk.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more men than women are abusing alcohol. About 57.5 percent of men over the age of 12 reported past month alcohol use as compared to 45 percent of women in the same age group while 10.5 percent of men and 3.3 percent of women reported heavy alcohol use in the past month. Additionally, it was found that about 10.5 percent of men as compared to 5.1 percent of women reported alcohol use in the past year that met the standard for alcohol abuse or dependence.The Drug and Alcohol Services Information System also reports that veterans are abusing alcohol in high numbers as compared to the rest of the population. In a single year, more than 65,000 veterans were admitted into drug and alcohol treatment programs across the country and more than two-thirds of that number were for alcohol abuse and addiction issues. Specifically, 68 percent of veterans reported alcohol as their drug of choice as compared to 52 percent who made the same claim among the non-veteran population.
Effects of Alcohol in Low and High Doses
In low doses, alcohol makes users feel relaxed and euphoric while lowering their inhibitions. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, higher doses of alcohol yield much more significant effects, including:
- Slurred speech
- Angry outbursts and emotional volatility
- Sexual dysfunction
- Loss of coordination
- Visual impairment
- Memory impairment
- Lost consciousness
- Alcohol poisoning
- Fatal overdose
When high doses of alcohol are consumed consistently over time, users can become violent or depressed whether or not they are currently drinking, pregnant women can harm their unborn child, hypertension can develop, neurological deficiencies can become an issue, liver and/or heart disease may develop, and/or alcohol addiction can take over.
Binge Drinking Is Alcohol Abuse
Many believe that they are not abusing alcohol if they go out on the weekends or drink heavily a few nights a week. They think that if they work all day and drink large amounts on the weekend that they are “normal” and don’t have a maladaptive relationship with alcohol – especially if they can quit drinking for weeks or months at a time before returning to their old habits. Unfortunately, this behavior is the definition of binge drinking and just as dangerous as the drinking habits of those who abuse alcohol regularly demonstrating different patterns of use. A few more facts to consider:
- The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as drinking to the point of raising the blood alcohol content to more than .08 percent or higher.
- The CDC estimates that about 92 percent of American adults over the age of 18 binge drink at least once a month.
- Another study reports that 70 percent of binge drinking episodes occur in adults over the age of 26, and 75 percent of all drinking experiences in the United States are estimated to be binge drinking episodes – as compared to 90 percent among teens.
Risks Associated With Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages
Caffeinated alcoholic beverages are drinks that pre-mix plant-based stimulants, caffeine and sugar with high amounts of alcohol. While these drinks and drinks that combine energy drinks and alcohol are a trend among American young adults, they are the subject of extensive controversy, for a number of reasons. Here are just a few:
- Masked effects of alcohol. The caffeine and other stimulants in caffeinated alcoholic beverages can cover the depressant effect of alcohol, causing users to drink more alcohol than they usually would.
- Doesn’t mask other effects of alcohol. Caffeine does not mask alcohol’s effect on impulse control or inhibitions, lower the concentration of alcohol on the breath, or assist the liver in metabolizing alcohol.
- Increases likelihood of binge drinking. It’s much more difficult to go out for a drink or two when choosing caffeinated alcoholic beverages. Those who combine caffeine and alcohol are three times as likely to abuse alcohol (i.e., drink five or more alcoholic beverages within two hours).
- Higher risk of poor choices. The CDC reports that those who drink caffeine and alcohol together are twice as likely to be sexually abused, to sexually abuse others, or to drive while under the influence.
Alcoholism can be Deadly
Make no mistake – just because alcohol is readily available in every corner store, it is not a safe substance. The production of alcoholic beverages is regulated by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards as well as the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), and there are laws limiting the amount of allowable consumption as well as health guidelines and standards disseminated to help people understand how much is too much. However, even with all these mitigating measures in place, millions of Americans live with alcohol abuse every year.
Chronic health problems like liver damage and kidney failure are exceedingly common when a person drinks large amounts of alcohol regularly. Emotional distance between and negligence of family members begin almost immediately when alcohol abuse is an issue. Violence is more common when alcohol comes into play, and more people end up in front of a judge due to choices made under the influence of alcohol than because of almost any other drug.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Alcohol-Related Disease Impact (ARDI) study, binge drinking and alcohol abuse are the cause of more than 79,000 deaths each year in the United States. The estimated potential years of life lost due to poor choices made while under the influence of alcohol amount to as much as 2.3 million years, according to that same organization.
The Difference Between Abuse and Addiction
Those who are living with alcohol addiction have all the characteristics of those who abuse alcohol but also have other issues in relation to their drinking. For instance, alcoholics usually have just one type of alcoholic beverage that they indulge in to the exclusion of all others while those who abuse alcohol are generally more open-minded about what they will drink. Also, alcoholics require more and more alcohol in order to get drunk, building up a tolerance due to their regular drinking.
Another difference: Alcoholics will only attend functions where they can drink or get away with being drunk. They may also feel the need
to drink regularly, even daily, no matter what activities are going on or expectations that are upon them in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms while those who abuse alcohol usually binge frequently but not necessarily daily nor to the exclusion of other activities.
Unfortunately, both those living with alcoholism and an alcohol abuse issue may or may not have a clear view of the problem that their drinking has become. However, should either type of drinker try to stop drinking on their own, they are unable to do so and require medical detox and addiction treatment in order to stop drinking for any length of time.
It is possible for those who abuse alcohol to benefit from proper education on the dangers of drinking, a solid intervention by friends and family, and outpatient treatment to address the psychological issues that may be pushing them to turn to alcohol for support in times of stress or in the pursuit of enjoyment.
Alcohol addiction, however, usually requires inpatient addiction treatment at an alcohol rehab that provides medical alcohol detox in addition to psychological therapy and care. In both cases, ongoing support and aftercare are important parts of the program to help the patient remain focused on his or her recovery in the long term.
Choosing to learn how to fight alcohol abuse before it evolves into alcohol addiction is one of the best decisions that you can make. You may have already lost your marriage, your job, your financial security or your freedom due to alcohol abuse – or you may be on the verge of losing all these things and more – but if you get treatment, you can try to save what you have left before you lose that as well.In some cases, you may even be able to salvage some of what you lost during active alcohol abuse. Family therapy is available in alcohol treatment to help you rebuild your marriage if alcohol abuse is what’s tearing it apart. When you get the help you need, health problems may slow in progression and, in some cases, even reverse. You’ll fare better in court when dealing with the judge on issues related to past alcohol abuse, and your finances will immediately begin to improve when you aren’t spending so much on alcohol and have the ability to hold down a job.
Rehab at Michael’s House
At Michael’s House, we are committed to offering the highest quality alcohol abuse and addiction treatment by providing the most innovative mental health and addiction treatment options available today. Each specialized program at Michael’s House provides integrated treatment options, ensuring that our clients receive all the care they need to meet all their treatment needs. We provide individualized alcohol rehab, drug rehab and mental health treatment customized to the unique needs of the patient. Because people vary in the severity of their conditions and their readiness to begin alcohol and drug rehab, the wide range of services available at Michael’s House meets each person at his or her level of need and readiness to recover.
If you have questions about whether you or a loved one may need help for addiction, please call our call center 24 hours a day at 877-345-8494.